President Bill Clinton

President Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton recently visited social network  for a special Earth Day interview that touched on electric-vehicle policy and legislation.

He answered user questions about many ecological and environmental topics--including third-world development and global warming--as well as future transport solutions for the globe.

When the discussion moved to electric cars, Clinton urged that the move to electric vehicles should happen as rapidly as possible. But he also warned about hurdles that must be overcome first.

Citing the success of last summer's Cash for Clunkers program, he called for the federal government to subsidize an electric-car conversion program to encourage consumers to switch to electric drive.

Clinton didn't make it clear whether he was talking about switching consumers from gasoline to electric by replacing cars or physically converting existing cars to electric drivetrains. The latter would undoubtedly make many conversion companies throughout the U.S. extremely happy.

When asked, "What really happened to the Electric Car?"--a question clearly designed to tackle the part that Clinton's government played in the rise and fall of the electric car in California in the late 1990s and early 2000s--he deftly avoided the question. Instead, he focused his answer not on the past but on the resurgence of electric cars.

"A few years ago, there was a very widely watched documentary [Who Killed The Electric Car?] claiming that the energy interests tanked the electric car...but let's talk about today. The electric cars are coming back."

Listing a few models due to hit the markets this year and referring to cars made in Japan--the 2011 Mitsubishi i-MiEV and 2011 Nissan Leaf--as well as the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, Clinton continued, "I think we should accelerate our production and use of electric cars and go as quickly electric as we can."

Clinton warned that battery technology needs further research to enable batteries to be produced that produce better performance from fewer raw materials: "A lot of it [lithium] is in South America - but we don't have the mechanisms to take enough of it out of the ground for everybody to drive an electric car."

The former president also called for better battery recycling, pointing out the need for significant amounts of any new battery technology to be recycled rather than ending up in landfills at the end of their lives. Clinton called for a new industry to be put into place to recycle every possible component of spent lithium-ion battery packs.

While little of this is particularly new, Clinton's potential influence on the current Obama administration could well help push the incentives and policies he discusses into legislation.

[An interview with President Bill Clinton - Earth day Edition - Digg Dialogg]